25.02.12 (Day 429)
Suddenly, things change.
Suddenly, my youngest daughter – the biological one – is eight years old today. Suddenly, my second youngest daughter- and the youngest of the three adopted girls – was fifteen, two days ago.
Suddenly, time flies and you realise what you’ve missed.
Time hasn’t flown over the last fourteen months. It has dragged. It’s been like wading through an ocean of treacle, picked up by the occasional lifeboat and carried for a while. It’s all documented in this blog, where it will remain as a reminder of what has been probably the biggest single transitional phase of my life. Now the opposite shore is in sight.
I’m finally moving on. Not far geographically: to the pub across the road in fact. But I’m moving on to start a new life with a literal blank canvas to make my own. I’ve been frequenting the pub for a few weeks now, since it’s come under new management. I’ve been playing for the pool team, getting to know the regulars and the family who run the place. I’ve been honest with them all and everyone over there knows about my past: where I’ve come from, what I did to lose everything I once had, what I’ve been through and how I’ve ended up where I am. They appreciate me being so candid and in me they don’t see what others saw over a year ago and chose to abandon. They see someone who’s made mistakes, paid the price and who is looking to start again.
So in the first instance, they’ve offered me somewhere to live. Nothing fancy; a flat comprising two rooms, which itself is within a flat on the upper floors of the building. My two rooms are of sufficient size to serve as a living room and a bedroom / office respectively. There is much work to be done as the place is in a state of disrepair but once the place is renovated, it will be mine for as long as I want it. I have a vision of how it will look and it is so “me” that it could actually have been designed for me, even before I’ve done it up. Although both rooms are pretty decent sizes, they’re cosy. The windows are small and there’s not much natural light. The views from the windows are onto the part of town just beyond the high street and of course, above a pub. It has a lot of character.
The first job to do with the part that I’m taking over is the knock an arch or a doorway into the dividing wall between the two rooms. Then I need to paint the walls and lay new carpets. I’m toying with ideas for colour schemes and I’m not restricted to neutral colours as there are no plans to rent this place out to anyone after me, as there will most likely be no-one after me. This is my little place for as long as I want it and I envisage that being a very long time indeed because I will feel at home there, especially as I’m creating the thing. I don’t plan to remarry or have more kids, so I don’t see the need to move on to somewhere bigger. The landlords are friends so I’m not at the whim of a corporate letting agent. Few people would likely go for the place in its current condition anyway but I’m prepared to put the work in and make it my own.
Most of my gear is still in Sidcup in the flat I shared with my ex-fiance Danielle. I’m meeting her for lunch on Tuesday to finalise plans for getting my things moved out. I’m very much looking forward to seeing her as we’ve been getting on famously of late. With what I have in mind regarding furniture and other things to bring down – mainly books, CDs and DVDs – I can imagine what the new place will look like: cosy and stuffed full of things of interest. I yearn for only simple pleasures, such as reclining on my own sofa, with a good book and no-one else around to distract me. I’ll be getting my hi-fi separates back and my TV, so I’ll have plenty to listen to and to watch. The most important thing is that it is MINE.
Outside my two rooms, or flat within a flat, I have the use of a shared living room, kitchen and bathroom. These are also in need of attention but I have plenty of time to work on the larger flat, which I will be sharing with the son of the landlords. He himself is due to take over the pub in the not too distant future and I will eventually be working there, initially for the restricted hours permitted by my being in the ESA Support Group because of my illness. The flat and any work are completely separate and the former does not come as compensation for the latter. Therefore I can claim the maximum amount of housing benefit, which will cover the cost of my rent. If I do end up working – most likely in the kitchen – this will be declared permitted work and pay, with the flat not attached to any job. And if I am working but decide to leave, the flat is not at risk.
There are still hurdles to overcome, housing benefit being the main one and I am only grateful that my future landlord is as understanding as he is because housing benefit is paid in lieu. Therefore I will have been resident for four weeks before back paying rent for that period. Normally rent is payable in advance and a deposit is required. So I have been very fortunate to have a landlord who recognises my situation and who is willing to help and know that I will help him in return when I am able and permitted to do so.
So the next thing to do is actually move into the new place once I’ve done it up. Then I’m there to stay, possibly for as long as whatever years I may have left in me. In time it may be that my health improves and I might come off of benefits and go back to working. But not back to running businesses like I used to; rather, doing something I enjoy, like running a commercial kitchen. To start with I’m looking forward to having my own place which in itself will help me to get better. I have a permanent personal base from which to write and hopefully publish another novel. I still need sales of the debut one to take off and must admit to disappointment at the current uptake, given that it really is a very good book. One day I shall be recognised further for what I am: a talented writer.
Ultimately, also a chance to show off my skills as a chef. Working during the day in the pub kitchen downstairs, cooking and serving people; doing what I love. Then when not working, engaging my other passion of writing. And the other: playing pool downstairs in the pub. And the last: playing poker online in my den. That’s the future and one I’m very much looking forward to.
I’m also looking forward to seeing my son on Saturday. No doubt someone else present will frown at the prospect of me moving into a pub but that person is one of the many who knew me a year ago and all but abandoned me. That same person will probably also disapprove of my new facial furniture: currently a scaffold in my left ear, a bar in my right eyebrow and a helix in the cartilage of my right ear. These as well as the three piercings I already had in my earlobes. But they’re self-expression, just like my writing and my cooking. And my new home: they’re what makes me, me.
Suddenly, time taps you on the shoulder and asks you if you’d like some more; if you want to try again.